I Still Believe (1998)
"I Still Believe" was covered by American singer Mariah Carey, a former backup singer for Starr before she achieved success, for her #1's album.
Background and Release
While choosing new material to record for her first compilation, #1's, Mariah Carey decided to cover "I Still Believe" as a tribute to Starr, as she had been Starr's backing singer in the late 1980s and Starr had helped jump-start Carey's career by handing a demo tape to CBS Records executive Tommy Mottola, who had then signed Carey to her first recording contract. She explained that the song "reminds me of the fact that not long ago I was a teenage girl with nothing to my name but a demo tape, my voice, and my ability to write songs. Brenda K. Starr treated me like a 'star' and gave me a shot." During an interview for Entertainment Tonight, she further commented:
"I'm really glad that I got a chance to remake the song 'I Still Believe,' because the album is called '#1's' and this is the first song that I sang as a professional singer. I would go on the road with Brenda. I was a little skinny kid with no money that she took under her wing and she was so nice to me. I auditioned to be her back-up singer and she hired me and she used to bring me clothes and food, and she really took care of me like a big sister. A lot of people wouldn't have done that. The main thing was that she believed in me and it's really hard to get people to listen to your tapes. [...] She was always real cool and helpful and supportive. I always loved this song. When I sing it now, it reminds me of those times."
"I Still Believe" was released as the compilation's third single on February 8, 1999. Carey's version derives from both pop and R&B music, being produced by Carey with Stevie J and Mike Mason. According to EMI Music Publishing, the song was written in the key of G major and set in a moderately slow tempo of 61 beats per minute, while Carey's vocal range from G3 to F#5.
A remix of the song was produced by Carey and Damizza titled "I Still Believe/Pure Imagination," which was included on the CD Single with the original version and other three remixes, released on February 23, 1999. It differs significantly from the original, as it retains none of the music and only minor lyrical elements. The melody is based heavily on interpolations of the song "Pure Imagination," which Gene Wilder sang, in character as Willy Wonka, in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and the song features rapped and sung parts by Krayzie Bone (of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) and Da Brat. An abbreviated version of "I Still Believe/Pure Imagination," without Da Brat and more from Krayzie Bone, can be found on Bone's album Thug Mentality 1999. According to Jose F. Promis of Allmusic, "the mix is, nonetheless, breezy, laid-back, and typical of mid-'90s urban/hip-hop, and features da Brat saying "lose the ego," all the while self-aggrandizing herself."
Several other remixes of the song were created, and each was carefully overseen by Carey, who re-recorded her vocals for all of them. Stevie J, who co-produced the original song, enlisted the help of rappers Mocha and Amil to join Carey on a remix he was developing. Although it contains completely new musical elements (with no music derived from the original and only small lyrical elements), Carey, Stevie J and the rappers do not receive songwriting credit. David Morales created several remixes of the song, including the "Classic Club" mix. It retains the song's original music and chord progressions with Carey's original vocals and considerable ad libs. Other remixes by Morales include The King's Mix and the Eve of Souls mix, which do not contain complete vocals of the song, and feature little more than ad libs over club beats.
The single's music video, which Brett Ratner directed, was shot in early December 1998 and drew heavy inspiration from Marilyn Monroe's 1953 visit to U.S. troops in Korea for a United Service Organizations show. It shows Carey (who emulates Monroe's make-up and hairstyles) visiting Edwards Air Force Base in California and singing for airmen and soldiers, while standing on a fighter jet, as Monroe had done during the Korean War. It premiered on January 12, 1999 on MTV's Total Request Live, as well as on Entertainment Tonight.
In an interview during the set of the music video, Carey commented:
"Brett Rattner is directing the video and he's a good friend of mine and he's also doing some great work right now. [...] We were talking and I wanted it to be a live performance and we just started going back and forth and I was saying how a lot of people in the service had written me letters and talked about various songs. 'Hero' being one of them. I remember when I put my first album out, people would write who were stationed overseas. It was in the winter of 1990, which was around the time of the Gulf War, so a lot of people were writing about listening to the album. I always used to watch old footage of performers going overseas, from Bob Hope to Marilyn Monroe singing for people in the service. I thought this would be a nice thing to do. So, we're doing the video but I'm going to do some more songs if I have it in me."
A video for the remix was commissioned and directed by Carey herself, showing her as a peasant girl in a Mexican village as she tends to her goats and gathers water for her family. Bone is portrayed as a pariah of sorts in the town, in whom Carey may have a romantic interest. Da Brat takes on the role of the community gringo, as she arrives in a car with a lot of money.